Riding the wave of countrypolitan pop during the early 1970s, Tex-Mex border balladeer Freddy Fender (1937-2006) had a huge hit in 1975 with his bilingual version of "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," following it up with one of his most vigorous outings, "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights," which was also a huge Top Ten hit. Although he had a long history as a regional artist, Fender's singing style was pretty sissified, which fit perfectly into the softcore pop template of early '70s Nashville, although hard country fans may find it a little irritating. He may have been kinda wimpy, but Fender had melodic grace, and was a key figure in the history of latino roots music, paving the way for Los Lobos, Justin Trevino and the Mavericks. Fender's later associations with roots-oriented regional bands such as The Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven gave him his propers as a traditional artist and a forefather of the Chicano roots revival... Here's a quick look at his work...
Freddy Fender "The Millennium Collection -- The Best Of Freddy Fender" (MCA Nashville, 2001)
This too-brief, twelve-song best-of has several of his biggest hits, including fine examples of his Spanish-language material... "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights" and "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" are the big smasharoos, while oldies-tinged R&B numbers like "You'll Lose A Good Thing" will make old fans happy as well. It'd be nice if more of his country-oriented (like "Since I Met You Baby") was included, but this collection is nice for a taste. How strange, though, that Fender's legacy is so thinly represented on CD... But this is a decent introduction to his work.
Freddy Fender "The Best Of Freddy Fender" (ABC-Dot, 1977)
This was the standard-issue Fender best-of set during the late-1970s, and is one of his few releases to make it onto CD. With the exception of just a couple of songs, the playlist is pretty much the same as the later Millennium Collection set, listed above.
Freddy Fender "The Freddy Fender Collection" (Reprise, 1991)
Re-recordings of his original hits...
Freddy Fender "Introduction To Freddy Fender" (Fuel, 2006)
Freddy Fender "Canciones De Mi Barrio" (Arhoolie, 1993)
The folks at Arhoolie Records, which has become a trove for fans of Tex-Mex and Mexican popular and folkoric music, were well-positioned to explore the early roots of Fender's music, the years when he sang canciones and greasy, old-school, teenage rock'n'roll. This first album focusses on traditional roots music from the barrios of his youth; the other volumes gather some of his early rock recordings. Cool stuff that shows how deep his roots really were!
Freddy Fender "Rock 'N' Roll: Freddy Fender As Eddie Con Los Shades" (Arhoolie, 2003)
Freddy Fender "Interpreta El Rock!" (Arhoolie, 2003)
Freddy Fender "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" (Dot, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux)
Fender's breakthrough into the world of commercial pop and country. The title track was a huge country crossover hit, as was the similarly soulful "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights"; "Roses Are Red" was also a biggie, and there are also some country oldies that show his love of old-school country, such as "WIld Side Of Life." A fine debut and one of his best records.
Freddy Fender "Recorded Inside Louisiana State Prison" (Power Pak, 1975) (LP)
Freddy Fender "Are You Ready For Freddy?" (Dot, 1975)
Freddy Fender "Since I Met You Baby" (GRT, 1975) (LP)
(Originally produced by Wayne Duncan; re-arranged by Dick Heard)
A fun album with a fascinating past... On the edge of his first big breakthough, Fender was busted for having pot in the state of Louisiana, and was unceremoniously dumped by Imperial Records, the label that had been courting him. He recorded these sessions while trying to set something up with the folks at Chess -- that didn't work out either, and in the meantime he went to prison, sentenced to five years hard time (though he only served three, thanks to the intervention of Governor Jimmie Davis, who commuted his sentence.) Apparently the vocal tracks from this old session sat in the can for years, and was unearthed after Fender hit the bigtime in '74. Here's the funny part: they didn't use the original backing tracks, but laid down new music played by an ace '70s studio crew -- Harold Bradley, Lloyd Green, Hargus Robbins, all the usual suspects -- playing in the same style but with a slicker, more modern sound. And strangely enough, it's pretty darn good! What sounded like Fender doing a rock-oldies nostalgia album was actually him doing old-school rock'n'roll back in the day, just with a little bit of Nashville glitz laid on top. It's a good record, though, and definitely worth giving a spin!
Freddy Fender "Rock 'N' Country" (ABC-Dot, 1976) (LP)
Freddy Fender "Your Cheatin' Heart" (1976) (LP)
Freddy Fender "If You're Ever In Texas" (ABC-Dot, 1976) (LP)
Freddy Fender "If You Don't Love Me" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
Freddy Fender "Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
Freddy Fender "Swamp Gold" (ABC, 1978) (LP)
Freddy Fender "Tex-Mex" (MCA, 1979) (LP)
Freddy Fender "The Texas Balladeer" (1979) (LP)
Freddy Fender "Together We Drifted Apart" (1980) (LP)
The Texas Tornados "Texas Tornados" (Reprise, 1990)
The Texas Tornados "Los Texas Tornados" (Reprise, 1991)
The Texas Tornados "Zone Of Our Own" (Reprise, 1991)
The Texas Tornados "Hangin' On By A Thread" (Reprise, 1992)
The Texas Tornados "The Best Of Texas Tornados" (Reprise, 1994)
The Texas Tornados "4 Aces" (Reprise, 1996)
Los Super Seven "Los Super Seven" (RCA, 1998)
The Texas Tornados "Live From The Limo, v.1" (Virgin, 1999)
Los Super Seven "Canto" (RCA, 2001)
Freddy Fender "Forever Gold" (St. Clair, 2001)
A live recording...
Freddy Fender "Del Corazon/From The Heart" (Freddie Records, 2003)
The Texas Tornados "Live From Austin, TX" (New West, 2005)
A vintage, 1990 performance, capturing this Tex-Mex supergroup in all its early glory...
The Texas Tornados "Live From Austin, TX" (DVD) (New West, 2005)
The Texas Tornados "Esta Bueno!" (Bismeaux, 2010)
Although Freddy Fender and Doug Sahm's visages float above the others on the cover art, it's as a tribute, since this album was recorded after they had both passed away... Sahm's song, Shawn, is the bandleader here, with capable assistance from Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers...
Hick Music Index